A long time ago on a freeway far, far away . . . . I was driving home after teaching some kindergarten students how to make an origami penguin when it occurred to me that a penguin and a B-Wing starfighter are very similar. In my head, I figured out how to rework the penguin into my first original Star Wars origami model. At the encouragement of friends, and after lots of trial and error—mostly error—I created an impressive number of original Star Wars origami models.
Fast forward to the first Star Wars Celebration. I’m on a shuttle bus filled with Star Wars fans, and I’m making my models and passing them out to anyone who wants one. One of the passengers, a boy of about 13, asked me for my autograph. I assured him I wasn’t famous. He said, “But you might be someday.” That was the first sign that I might really be onto something by pairing Star Wars with origami.
At Celebration II in 2002, I met the editor of Star Wars Insider, and he put together a twelve-page article with instructions for how to make four of my models: the Millennium Falcon, Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter, Boba Fett’s helmet, and a Bantha. I still run into fans who remember that article.
For Celebration III, I really wanted to make a life-size Jabba the Hutt—and I did! But, making a large-scale model is not a one-man job. About fifteen audience members helped me fold in front of an enthusiastic audience and two surprise guests: David Barclay and Toby Philpott, the main puppeteers inside Jabba during the filming of Return of the Jedi. I was so honored to have them there. They helped fold and told tales from the movie set.
One of my most memorable Celebration moments was in 2007 at Celebration IV. I taught two origami classes a day on the children’s stage. The master of ceremonies for the Celebration, Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho), wanted to participate in the classes with his kids, but the room was small and convention security was worried that he’d draw a larger crowd than the space could handle. Instead, I gave Jay and his five kids a private session an hour before they had to catch their flight home.
At Celebration V, I met two key people. The first was Tom Angleberger, author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, and I was thrilled to discover we had mutual respect for each other’s work. The other was Lucasfilm’s art director. My work impressed him, and thanks to his involvement and the success of Tom’s book, Lucasfilm decided it was time to try an instructional origami book.
So here it is, 2012. I’ve published a book with Workman Publishing, and I’m preparing for Celebration VI. You’ll find me in the children’s room teaching each day, plus one special session on the main stage. I may not be famous exactly, as the kid on the bus predicted, but I will be autographing copies of my book, Star Wars Origami, and teaching models to fans one-on-one. And considering the special things that happened in the previous five Celebrations, I can’t help but wonder what fate has in store for me in Orlando this year.
Chris Alexander is the author of Star Wars Origami (on sale now) and the creator of starwarsorigami.com.